Interviews

Interview with prog keyboard maestro Geoff Downes (YES, Asia)

Interview by Marianne Jacobsen

 

Another Phone mishap equals another great interview with the Iconic Keyboard player Mr. Geoff Downes.

Ring Ring – (however the ring has a British accent)

GD:      Hello?

MGM:  Hello is this Mr. Downes?

GD:      Yes it is how are you today?

MGM:  I’m great!  How are you!

GD:      I’m very good!  We are about to head out on tour and that’s coming right up!

MGM:  I know that’s great and I’ve got a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind.  I’m a HUGE Asia fan.  I was about 13/14 when that album came out and it’s a real benchmark in my soundtrack of that time in my life.  It was my first real step into progressive music – thanks for that!

GD:      Oh yeah? That’s Excellent.  You’re Canadian aren’t you?

MGM:  Why yes I am! 

GD:      Where do you live in Canada?

MGM:  I live in Northern Ontario – so I will drive about 4 hours to see shows in Toronto usually. 

GD:      In proper Canadian country

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MGM:  Yep in proper Canadian clothes – comfortable and warm.  It’s great because its so peaceful up here so when I go to concerts it’s a completely different world.

GD:      Oh yeah I bet.

MGM:  So with this upcoming tour with Yes I believe once again shows that the younger generation of music lovers are starting to generate back to what I would consider classics from my era (70/80/90).  Do you agree?

GD:      Yes it has!  It’s gone full circle hasn’t it?

MGM:  Yes and at the same time being able to share our music with another generation is amazing. 

OK here are your questions Mr. Downs:

GD:      All right go on!

MGM:  How does it feel to be such an influence on progressive rock and music in general?

GD:      Well I certainly enjoy being part of the progressive rock scene. I came from a kind of mixed background you know.  I in many ways started in the pop world.  It kind of in many ways changed the course really along the way somewhere and it’s been quite interesting.  Its been an interesting journey that’s for sure.

MGM:  Definitely!

You are touring both Fragile and Drama (back to back live) in their entirety.  What made you choose these two albums?

GD:      I believe that they are both sort of pivotal albums in Yes’ career.  The Fragile Album really featured the classic core of Yes and I think that this is where they really started to explain it with longer pieces and having more riffs with the music and I think that really sent them on a course to bring them to albums like Close to the Edge and Tales from the Topographic Oceans.  So these were turning points in the bands career.  When I came into to Yes for the Drama album, that was a turning point for Yes in many ways because it kind of propelled us from 70s Yes into the 80s Yes.

MGM:  Where is your favourite place in the world to perform?

GD:      Well I love the States. I really love playing in Japan – we always seem to have a pretty good time there so you know.  Having said that I also love touring the UK because that is obviously where we grew up so – there is always an appreciative audience and I believe that we have created longevity in those countries.

MGM:  Well Yes being a trailblazer in the beginning of progressive rock has got to help with the loyalty of your fan base?  I would think of Yes as a Godfather of progressive rock for sure.

GD:      Yeah definitely – It’s a significant aspect of Yes’ music and that we are comfortable doing so many different types of rock.  I think it’s a great thing that the music of Yes has lasted over 40 years – I believe that’s a very important aspect.

MGM:  If you could have one wish for the future of music/new musicians what would it be?

GB:      Well I think that we have a lot of new musicians who I hope are able to learn their instruments rather than just kinda get up and sing you know.  The way that a lot of people look at things now – and I think that the way music develops and continues to attract musicians rather than just the amateurs you see on the television these days.  I would rather see someone really playing their instrument and going for it, you know.

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MGM:  What would be the one suggestion that you would give young musicians?

GD:      Well I would suggest that they stick with it and continue to discover their own styles and be limitless with their approach to music.  Sometimes the people that I talked to get a bit dissuaded by certain things in music.  I thought that music was tough when I got involved – now its even harder.
Even the way that people listen to music is different.  People don’t listen to music by way of albums anymore.  Instead they just take a group of tracks and put them together.

Whereas I think that the album should be listened to the same way you would a symphony or orchestral album (beginning to end).

MGM:  That’s one of the best thing about Yes’ albums is that you could listen to them back to front

GD:      And that’s why I think that what we are doing on this tour is very popular.  I mean doing these album in their entirety from beginning to end is exactly how they were designed to be listened to.  So I think there is a lot of appreciation for the fact that this is what we are doing.

MGM:  Ok just one last one – What are you looking forward to most with this upcoming tour? (Besides hopefully coming to Canada)

GD:      Well I think its always a challenge and with this great group Yes’ music is always demanding.  Mentally its not all just three chords – its very complex music and then once you get into it its very rewarding to be able to pull it off with the other guys in the band and we give each other a lot of encouragement and I try and do the same and we all go the same direction.

I’m really looking forward to this because they are great blokes to work with and there is always a good freedom on the road and long may it continue!

MGM:  I hope that there is a great positive energy this tour and that it is so successful that you bring it to Canada!

GD:      I hope so yes!  That would be nice!

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YES will be touring 2 of their seminal albums in their entirety “Fragile” and “Drama” together with a bunch of classic YES tracks including Owner of a Lonely Heart And Starship Trooper during a 10 date UK tour in April and May which hits Manchester Apollo on 30th April and finishes at the Royal Albert Hall on 10th May.    

The band also recently released several re-mastered standard and deluxe albums on iTunes ….Drama will follow slightly later on.

DATE            CITY                                VENUE                              BOX OFFICE

April 

Wed 27th        Glasgow                             Royal Concert Hall             0141 353 8000

Fri    29th        Newcastle                          City Hall                               0191 277 8030

Sat   30th        Manchester                       Apollo                                   08444 777 677

May

Mon  2nd        Liverpool                           Philharmonic                      0151 709 3789

Tue  3rd          Sheffield                             City Hall                              0114 2789 789

Wed 4th          Bristol                                Colston Hall                        0844 887 1500

Fri    6th          Birmingham                     Symphony Hall                   0121 345 0602

Sat   7th           Brighton                            Brighton Centre                 0844 847 1515

Mon  9th         Oxford *                            New Theatre                       0844 871 3020

Tue  10th        London**                           Royal Albert Hall               0207 589 8212

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